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Nana
By

Rick Scheideman

 




The place slows by 2:30. I’m taking an order from a couple from Colorado vacationing on the Peninsula when I hear the grandson’s voice. I smile to myself. Once in a while they swing by the restaurant and make my day. Lunch rush was heavy today. That means bussing tables as well as taking orders, getting coffee refills, and prepping some of the sides like the pasta and Greek salads. When Vern grouses around back with a hangover, I do the register too. Today, Vern is badly hung over. He’s the owner and does most of the cooking when he can manage it. I guess he’s managing it today though with a goodly amount of fuming and clamor.

My daughter gets uptight about coming into the place. It has a bar, though not a heavy-duty bar. Only with private parties does the booze get out of hand. Most of the time it’s a family sort of place with windows looking out on the harbor, tablecloths and cloth napkins for dinner, and tables scattered on the deck when summer comes. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Dorie scoot my only grandbaby onto the vinyl booth cushion. She warns him.

“Joshua, look into Mother’s eyes. We are only going to stay her a few minutes. See the ferryboat out the window over there?  Sit up straight Joshua and please sit still. We’re going to ride on the ferry in just a little while. Remember, no begging for treats from your grandmother. Make mother proud of you, son.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“Here, you’ve spilled something on your jacket.”

From her coat she produces a handkerchief, moistens it with spit, and rubs at a spot of yesterday’s mustard.

Three months ago, on March 18th, he celebrated his fifth birthday.  I didn’t make the party; too tense for Dorie so I pulled a double-shift that night and begged off. She acted disappointed, but I know she was relieved. What the hell.

            After placing an order, I swing by the soda machine and fill two glasses with Pepsi and ice.

“Hi, you two love bugs. Be back in a flash.”

I plop a glass in front of each of them. Doreen doesn’t give Joshua soda pop She’s convinced that it makes him hyperactive. I’m guessing she also thinks it’ll get him addicted to caffeine and after that, who knows what he might get addicted to? When I come back, both Pepsi’s sit on Dorie’s side of the table, untouched. Nothing to fight over. I slide next to my boy.

                        “Hi there tiger lily. How’s tricks Joshy?

“Mother, we have been through this many times before. William and I named him Joshua. That is what we prefer him to be called. I would appreciate it if you would not call him by nicknames.”

“You’re right Doreen, dear, I will call this little munchkin Joshua. I am sorry. Sometimes I just forget. Say, Joshua, I wonder what Nana has in her sweater pocket for a big old boy like you? I just wonder what it could be?

Joshy giggles and reaches into the side-pocket of my cardigan. Carefully, he draws out a little cardboard box covered with cellophane.

                        “What is it, Nana?”

“That, my little peach blossom, is an authentic, super-duper, one and only Spiderman Wrist Watch, complete with flashing lights and a whiz-bang game all combined—shazam!”

“Wow!”

“Say thank you, Joshua.”

“Thanks, Nana.”

“Grandmother.”

“Thank you, Grandmother.”

“You’re welcome, tiger butt—Joshua. Now, let Nana show you how this Spiderman watch work, if I can remember what that cute little salesgal told me.”

I show him the button on the side that makes little lights of red and green flash. Then there’s another button that releases a tiny silver ball that’s supposed to find its way in to one of Spiderman’s eyes if you tilt the watch back and forth the right way. I tried several times and couldn’t do it. That damn ball moves too fast. There’s supposed to be another ball released for the other eye if you get it in the first one. I never made it that far. He’ll like the flashy lights anyway. They’ll be pretty cool under the covers at night. My grandson can already tell time.

                        “I like the lights, Nana.”

                        “Me too. Joshy—ua!”

I look up at Doreen. Ah hell, “Dorie”, she’s my kid; I named her for crissake. Dorie’s an evangelical Christian. I’m not exactly sure what that means. She told me she got saved in college during her sophomore at the university in Bellingham. She started attending some meetings in the student union. She met William there. They went to a Bible study with some other kids. One night a guest speaker spoke and afterwards, with William on one side and the evangelist on the other, she knelt and asked Jesus into her heart. At first, she felt very excited but then she grew terribly burdened. She had lots of unsaved friends and family. She felt a weight to witness to her girl friends that still lived here in Port Angeles. Of course, the relatives were next, finally Fred and me. Fred’s her dad. We’re divorced.

                        “Hi there, lovely. I miss you.”

“Hello, Mother. I’ve been so busy. Every day there is so much to do. It makes it difficult to drive all the way up here to see you. I’m really excited, though, because William was elected an elder last Sunday. It’s an awesome responsibility. He’ll have weekly elder meetings and, of course, special meetings to deal with disciplinary cases, evangelism, mission’s planning, prayer, and everything else. He alternates preaching duties with Fred Pribyl, the other teaching elder. William decided to exposit Ephesians. He’ll do a fantastic job. It would be good if you could come to a Sunday service and hear him explain, in detail, Paul’s epistle.”

“Thanks, hon. Maybe sometime I can, but I usually work the Sunday brunch. Sounds like you’re in a whirlwind.”

“Yes, but it is the Lord’s work and we are committed to doing it in the Lord’s way.”

Damn, if Joshy didn’t get that ball in Spiderman’s eye—both eyes! That kid is a genius. While we were gabbing he plugged up both of Spiderman’s eyes. Now he bends over the watch with his forehead resting on his cupped hands and delights in the light show.

                        “What about you, baby girl, what’s up with you?”

                        “’Doreen,’ Mom, please?”

                        “Sorry. What’s happening  Doreen?”

“Well, I’ve been very fulfilled with several projects, the most important of which is beginning home-schooling with Joshua. He learns kindergarten with me each morning at the kitchen table. Already he has memorized the alphabet, his numbers, and six Bible verses. Then, of course, there’s the food co-op. That takes up a lot of time, what with picking up the donated food and repackaging it, and then getting it set out at the food bank each Saturday morning. Last week I wrote an evangelistic tract and we’re having it printed to put in each of the grocery sacks for the poor who come to the food bank. Choir practice is on Tuesday nights. The latest thing is that I’m taking a series of five classes in street evangelism taught at Seattle Bible College. Our final project consists of going door-to-door sharing the Gospel. I’m really excited about witnessing for Christ and reaping a harvest.”

“Phew, that’s my girl, busy as ever. I’m sure you’ll well at every one of your projects, hon.”

My daughter’s light brown hair is long, mid-way down her back, and parted severely in the middle. Every couple of months she works hard to straighten the curls she inherited from me. I guess curls are vain. She is forever pulling the sides over each of her ears. Her forehead wrinkles when she squints, which happens whenever she talks. Her lips are thin and drawn tight. Ah, but those eyes, emerald green, like her Dad’s. Devastating eyes.

                        “Time to go, Joshua.”

                        “Ah, Mom, do we have to?”

                        “Joshua.”

                        “Yes, Mother.”

I sigh my motherly sigh as I look at my grandson.

                        “So soon?”

            I don’t really listen to her rehearse her schedule, but I catch that they’re off on the ferry to Victoria to drop off some church supplies. I hold Joshy’s face between my hands and give him Eskimo kisses. And then, for good measure, a flurry of butterfly kisses too. He giggles. I reach an arm for my daughter, but she has turned away to slip on her raincoat. As they walk toward the door that leads into the mini-mall, Dorie fusses with Joshy’s coat; their heads disappear down the stairs to the main floor.

            The Denver couple finished their lunch and is ready for the check.

                        “How did you like that chowder?”

                        “Just great.”

                        “Good. And how about the fish-n-chips, darling?”

The young wife answers with a full smile, her eyes bright.

“Never tasted any better. My Mom was English and she took me back for a couple of visits.  They have great fish-n-chips there, but these tasted even better.”

“ I’ll tell the cook. You folks enjoy your stay on the Peninsula.”

They leave a generous tip and saunter out arm-and-arm.

            I minister to the coffee machine with a new filter, fresh water, and scoops of strong nut-smelling coffee. The place is empty now, except for Vern, asleep, no doubt, in the back. After bussing and wiping down the tables, I sit with a fresh cup looking out on the harbor.

The Landing Bar and Grill boasts plate glass windows all along one side and across the back where the view takes in a good part of the harbor. I used to like my coffee black, though I have taken to cream lately. The tummy’s been acting up. I’m thinking it’s the acid in the coffee, but I’m not going to give up coffee just yet. Maybe it’s some other belly problem. Anyhow, this cup sure tastes good. I’m getting used to the cream; can’t imagine dumping sugar in it though. Who knows, pretty soon I’ll be sipping lattes. I must say, it sure does feel good to take a load off.

            The clouds outside are confused, hazy with thick puffs racing by and the wind builds from the west where the big storms hit us. Every once in a while, as a watch, the red tile roof on the Coast Guard building over on the tip of Ediz Hook disappears. Then suddenly, with a brightening, it pops back and seems quite close. When clouds rush like this, the light changes constantly. In sunlight, the water takes on a deep blue color, but then the ocean turns gray with lost light. This weather fools with my emotions.

            I’ve lived in and around the Olympic Peninsula for most of my life. The Chamber of Commerce is always going on about the rain shadow—the Blue Hole—to get tourists and industry to locate here. I’ll grant that we get less rain than Seattle does, still, we have our share of gloom just the same. I guess the sun shines a little more in the Dungeness Valley, a few miles east of here. That’s where I was raised, a little town called Carlsborg.

            Ferry’s coming. That damnable horn startles the bejeebies out if me every time, even when I expect it. Two ferries companies make the run from here to Canada. That one coming in now is the big one. It carries cars and trucks as well as people. When it comes motoring in from Victoria it’s a sight to see. It charges like it’s going to plow right into the dock, and then at the last second it swings out toward the harbor and backs in without a hitch. I like to watch it. Lots of our customers grab a bite in here before boarding. Tickets are first come, first serve on the ferry, so most travelers buy their tickets early, eat, and then do some window-shopping. When business is slow, I watch them walk along Railroad Street and then up the hill on Lincoln toward the courthouse. There’s really not a lot to see here, but I suppose looking passes the time. Storm’s coming.

            We have a beach two blocks south of here called Hollywood Beach. It’s near the town pier. I don’t know why they named it Hollywood Beach; it sure as hell ain’t California, no palm trees and sand, just tons of rocks. Mostly high school kids dare each other into the cold water; sensible people are too smart for that. Nice enough place for a picnic though.

            I know the shuffle. Fred. Not a salesman’s light tapping leather or the thump of one of those outdoor types. Fred walks pigeon-toed and lands on the balls of his feet, a sandpapery sound, light, and deliberate. I’m keep looking at the people walking off the ferry.

                        “Hi, Fred, how’s tricks?”

                        “Not so bad, Annie, and you?”

                        “Hanging in there. You want a cold one?”

                        “Naw. A cup of coffee sounds good though. It’s kind of raw out there.”

                        “Looks like a storm. Take a seat. I’ll be back in a flash.”

I wonder what this is all about. I haven’t seen my “Ex” for almost a year. I sure as hell don’t have any money. Easy sister, he’d never ask for money.

                        “Still take it black, Fred?”

                        “Put some cream in it, would you? I’m getting a bad gut.”

Oh, good God, not you too. I wonder if we look alike too, like those decrepit couples in synthetic walking outfits that have been together forever. Please, God, no.

                        “There you go.”

                        “Thanks.”

            He still cuts quite a figure, slim-waisted, broad across the chest and shoulders. A fine specimen of a man. The beard’s gone completely white now; it contrasts with those deep-water eyes. A front tooth was set ajar by 1 x 6 that busted him in the chops when he was pulling out another board below it. He was fourteen, just starting out in his Dad’s cabinet shop.

                        “How’s the wooden boat business?”

“Not so bad. We got an order for a Concordia 33 a couple of months ago. I got the lofting done and hired a couple of kids that just graduated from the boat building school.”

“Is Donnie still working with you?”

“Yeah. He’s been steady when the work is. I’ll tell you, that Donnie can do some of the prettiest joinery work I’ve seen anywhere.”

I remember. I turn to look at the new passengers heading up the gangway. My kiddies are probably already on board.

“Tell me about the boat, Fred. I remember the name, Concordia, New England design?”

“Yep. She’s sweet, Annie, sweet lines. Wilder Harris designed her in the 1930’s. She’s a bit over 33 feet with close to ten-foot of beam. The client wants a sloop rig which I figure will carry about 500 square-feet of sail.”

Damn. Don’t cry, old girl. Bite the inside of your lip if you have to. No tears. But it stirs me so to hear him talk about boats—so many memories.

We rented a fallen-down barn west of Port Hadlock. It was winter when we started finishing out the hayloft and converted it into our home. On Saturdays and Sundays, from daylight to way past dark, we worked side by side hauling boards from the construction sights where Fred was framing houses. He labored through six-day week from seven in the morning until five and took a portion of his pay in wood. Then he’d come to the barn and plunge into more work. Many a time it was after midnight when we stopped for a glass a wine, sometimes a little romance.

            Lord, he was strong and so smart about building. He could figure a design in his head, work the angles with just a bevel gauge; he even made most of his own hand tools. We got along swell. Before summer, we got married and moved in to the loft the same day, Saturday, April 8, 1964. A week later he got his first commission. Fred got off the phone and excitedly explained to me that, though it was only a twelve-foot dinghy, the boat was an old Herreshoff, the best designer in America and probably the world. Fred did a grand job on the boat. The buyer, a lawyer officed in Port Townsend, loved the boat so much that he convinced a friend to order one. The next year that same lawyer had Fred build him a bigger boat, twenty-six feet with a fixed keel. Soon after he started on the boat, I started on morning sickness.

            We had loads of fun. After three months, Fred quit his construction job. He’d be down in the shop working on a boat and I’d be up in the loft tending Dorie. We’d work together during her naps. When the baby got older we’d bring her down to the shop. Fred built a playpen that resembled a boat deck. She was safe in there and she had lots of hand-made toys to play with. Poor? God, yes we were poor, but happy. Fred’s eyes were always full of boats and me. Then another skirt caught his eye, and that did us in.

                        “You listening, Annie?”

                        “Yep, and remembering a little too.”

“Well, we’ve had to build a bigger steam box. These frames are longer than anything we’ve done before. We cut the oak frames last week and the bending starts tomorrow. She’s all traditional, carvel planked, and get this, planked with the prettiest damn mahogany I ever saw. All bronze fittings, of course. Hell, Annie, it’ll be the prettiest and strongest boat around.”

“Way to go, Fred.”

He looks down at the last of the coffee in his cup.

                        “Thanks.”

            The horn blast from the ferry jerks my head around. The wind’s building with lots of fog pushing every which way. On the top deck, a young couple holds each other. Their embrace warms me.

                        “Seen Dorie and the kid?”

“Yeah, as a matter of fact, you just missed them. Of course, they couldn’t stay—maybe five minutes. You know how she is. They’re on the ferry for Victoria.”

“I ain’t seen them for a year, seems like.”

“I ain’t seen them much either. Dorie runs a pretty tight ship.”

I hear the quiet grunt I heard out of Fred for fifteen years. Now it’s my turn to stare at the coffee.

                        “Want more coffee?”

                        “No, Annie, one’s enough for me.”

“What’s on your mind, Fred? You’re not in the habit of stopping around just to jaw with the former old lady.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’s kind of stupid of me to be here. Maybe I should go.”

“What’s up?”

“Robin left me three weeks ago.”

“That a fact? You okay?”

“Sometimes I am, sometimes not. We hadn’t been getting along so good for a while. But, I didn’t think she’d split.”

“I’m sorry, Fred.”

“Yep. I’ll get over it.”

“You don’t think she’s coming back?”

“Naw.”

“How come? You’ve been together quite a while.”

“She’s got somebody else.”

            The rain begins to pelt as the ferry pulls out from the dock. I look at the thin streams of water streaking the window. The streaks don’t race each other. They meander all over the glass. You’d think they’d go straight down, but they don’t. They wiggle. Sometimes they meet up with each other and make a bigger stream. They look like tears puddling down the glass, stopping and then starting again.

            Once, after Fred left, I sat in front of the bathroom mirror on a kitchen chair—we made the chairs together, turning the legs on a lathe. My tears were just like this window-rain, stopping and starting, going to the corner of my mouth, making a little puddle under at my chin, then they dripped on my bare breasts. I sat that way for an hour without a stitch on. 

                        “I sorry, Fred. Really. That’s a bummer.”

“Justice, I guess. I ran out on you for someone else. Now, Robin’s cut out on me. Serves me right. God damnit, she took up with that peckerwood Dan Tolin that works down at the Marine Supply. That son-of-a-bitch ain’t even twenty-five years old if he’s a day. Hell, she’s been balling him for a goddamned year from what I hear. And there I am, going down to the Marine Supply every few days, just as stupid as a post and buying stuff from that kid, and him just as polite and nice as he can be. In fact, I once told Robin what a nice kid he was. She just smiled and said she’d seen him there but hadn’t met him. I am so pissed I could go after that kid with a marlinspike. But it wouldn’t do no good. They’d throw me in the can forever. Boy, she got me good, picking fights with me after work and stomping off like she’s all offended, and then meeting up with that kid somewhere. I’m just a stupid goddamned rudderpost that’s what I am.”

“More coffee, with a bump?”

“No. Yes!”

            It would be easy to gloat, easy to tell Freddie-boy to go to hell. That would be fair, wouldn’t it? I don’t know, though, if I believe in that kind of justice. Seems like we just bump into things, like getting up in the middle of the night to pee and stubbing your toe against a chair you forgot to put away. When Fred took off with his girlfriend, I wasn’t just angry or sad. There were other moments, different feelings. Sure, I felt awful, but I felt relief too. I knew he’d been fooling around, half of Port Townsend knew. Relief. And another thing, Dorie and I got really close during that time, not so bad really.

            Half coffee, half Irish whiskey, I put the cup in front of Fred. He stares at it.

                        “Thanks.”

                        “Welcome.”

            Three older women come in, blue hair’d and dressed in skirts, hose, high heels, and bellies cinched tight with raincoats. Their bosoms overflow frilly blouses.  I grin. They might topple over with the weight of hair and boobs. Their skin reeks from many samples of hand lotion at the Hawaiian booth out in the mall.

                        “Customers. Don’t go, Fred. I’ll be back.”

            Suddenly, there is a terrific screeching noise. We all turn toward the front window. In slow motion, the aluminum awning that covers the deck parts from the building. The noise stops as the roof and posts lift a foot in the air and then tumbles into the water. I never seen anything like it.

            Fred and I run to the window and watch the awning lolling around in the water. First it tips one way, then the other, and then it sinks. We stare until it disappears.

                        “That’s really something.”

                        “I’ll be a son-of-a-bitch.”

Vern slams through the kitchen door.

                        “What the hell is going on out here?”

The three blue hairs take a rain check on lunch and scurry out. Just then, a wave cascades over the wharf and hits the window square. I grab Fred’s arm and just as quickly let it go.

“I’m worried about Dorie and Joshy.”

“Why? The roads aren’t bad.”

“Damnit, they’re not driving, they’re on that God damned ferry.
“Oh, for crissake, I forgot!”

“I’m scared.”

“It’s a big boat, all the modern safety stuff. John Franklin’s seasoned. He’s a good captain, knows what he’s doing. He’s likely headed into the wind. That’ll slow boat and keep the seas manageable. They’ll be all right.”              

“Stay until it blows over.”

“Okay. But, I got to go check on Kimberly Ann. She’s tied up at the guest dock at the marina. She’s side on to the wind and I only tied her fore and aft, no spring lines. I got to move her head on and get more line on her.”

“Want my car?

“Thanks.”

High on a shelf in the pantry, I grab my purse. I feel embarrassed because my keys have a fuzzy kitty-cat fob. I attempt to take it off and can’t. What the hell. I toss it to Fred; he jogs out of the place.

            The sea in the bay is building even though the sand spit protects the harbor. The waves threaten the dock. Spray whips over the pilings. No streams running down the glass now—sheets of water. I peer steadily through the storm and try to find the ferry.

 Fred stands beside me. I startle.

                        “Sorry, I thought you heard me come back.”

                        “I’m frantic about them.

“No denying, there’s a capful of wind out there. But, like I said, Franklin knows what he’s doing. Anyway, I brought back the portable VHS. We can listen to what’s going on.”

Fred sets the radio on a nearby table.

                        “Let’s sit down, if you like, Annie. We can monitor their progress.”

                        “No thanks. Go ahead and turn it on. I can’t sit just yet.

            Static fills the air. He switches over to channel sixteen and fiddles with the knobs. Then he flicks to nine and fourteen and switches back to sixteen—the emergency channel.

                        “Nothing. No news is good news.”

                        “Maybe, maybe not.”

                        “Looks like the storm killed off your lunch trade.”

                        “What about you, Fred, want another bump and coffee?”

                        “No, I’m set.”

                        “Anything to eat?”

                        “You know, a burger sure would hit the spot, if you don’t mind.”

“Nah, It’ll give me something to do. Let’s see, cheese, pickle, no mustard, and light on the mayo. I bet you’re off the onions.”

“How did you know that?”

“’Cause they’ve been bugging my stomach the last couple of years too, just like the black coffee.”

            The kitchen’s empty. Vern must have taken off for a drink. His antidote? The best cure for a bad head is “a bit of the dog that bit you.” I stand staring at the sizzling patty. Dorie’s my only child and she’s grown so distant. I used to blame it on the divorce, now, her faith. Maybe when she gets older we’ll be friends. I hope so. I love Joshy so; a butterball with long lashes and my Dad’s chocolate brown eyes.

God, what a day! Fred got his from Robin. What’s he want from me? Sympathy? Not on your life. Maybe just comfort or punishment, or just plain old forgiveness. And this damned storm with my babies out there.

            The burger shrivels, almost black: I toss it in the garbage. The walk-in shivers me. I reach for two more patties stacked ten high with waxed paper between them

            When I shove open the kitchen door with my backside, Fred switches off the radio.

                        “Here you go, Freddie.”

                        “Thanks.”

I nod toward the silent radio.

                        “What’s up?”

Franklin radioed the Coast Guard. One of the diesels is acting up. He’s losing some headway.”

“What’s that mean? Ah hell.”

“Take it easy, Annie. It’ll be all right. They’re making four to five knots. Coast Guard’s got them on radar. They can putts along ‘till they get to Victoria.”

“How far out are they?”

“Not far.”

“Why don’t they turn around and come back?”

“Too dangerous with the wind and seas from that angle. They’re plugging along. They’ll be okay.”

“I ain’t comforted.”

“Sorry, Annie.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re sorry. I’m sorry too. My kid and her baby boy are out there in this god-awful storm and who knows what’s happening.”

I can’t stifle the tears any more. The mascara’s streaking and I’m a mess. I never let him see me this way when he took off.

                        “I’m sorry, Annie.”

Can’t help it—I snap.

“’Sorry, Annie?’ Is that all you know how to say, sorry Annie? Well, so the hell am I, Fred. I’m sorry this storm’s blowing, sorry the babies are out in the middle of it, sorry you stopped in here today!”

            I turn my face away and push my forehead against the pounding window. The cool glass soothes the heat in my head. Across the street the shops look ghost-like through the horizontal rain.  Salt-water spume scours the sidewalk and darkens the brick wall of the Chamber of Commerce building. No cars. And this vicious pounding against the glass.

            Fred stands. From the corner of my eye I see him slice the burger and pick up half in a napkin and walk toward the windows. He’s looking west for a break in the storm.

                        “Any change?”

                        “Not yet.”

                        “I’m sorry, Fred. I didn’t mean to jump down your throat.”

                        “You got enough reasons.”

                        “Come back and try the radio again.”

                        “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”

John Franklin’s voice cracks through the static. I glance at Fred. His grinding jawbone dimples the cheek.

                        “Roger that, Victoria Ferry. This is Coast Guard dispatcher at Ediz Hook.

                        Confirm your position and status, over.”

Joshy’s face flashes in my mind; I hear his voice, “See, Nana, I did it.”

                        “Roger that position. Report your status.”

Silence.

                        “ I repeat, report your status.”

Silence. Then broken voice.

                        “. . . May . . . Mayday . . .”

More static.
                        “One engine out . . .steering.”

Fred’s cheeks flames with color, his jaw works vigorously.

“Roger that. Be advised: all aircraft grounded due to severe weather conditions. Coast Guard Cutter on rescue operation near Port Flattery. Will dispatch Cutter to your location as soon as possible, over.”

“Roger that. I have ordered the lifeboats ready for deployment

Fred sprints for the stairs.

                        “Grab a jacket!”

                        “Right behind you!”

Not exactly. Fred charges down three steps at a time, bolts out of the door, and then sticks his head back in to see if I’m following him.

                        “Keep going. I’ll meet you at the boat.”

                        “Right.”

No time to feel anything right now. I run back into the kitchen for food and a thermos of coffee. Then my own bounding down the stairs. I lean hard against the metal door; when I squeeze past, it slams hard. The racket of the wind through the rooftops and trees frightens me. Leaves fly by my head, stripped from heaving branches. I know the way to the marina with my eyes closed.

            Like an amusement park ride, the dock sections buck violently. Fred holds out his hand and I clumsily leap into the cockpit. Above the din he shouts.

                        “Let’s go below!”

The three-cylinder diesel idles, noisily vibrating in the dim cabin. Fred scoots behind the navigation table and pulls out a three-by-five card from shirt pocket. From his own bold printing, he reads the coordinates for the ferry’s position. He finds the chart from a cubbyhole above him and smoothes it over the tabletop. With sure hands, he draws the two bearing lines and makes a small circle where they intersect. I open the hanging locker and pull on the pants of the yellow foul-weather gear. As I zip up the jacket, Fred points to the circled mark on the chart with the dividers.

                        “There, that’s where they are.”

“Let’s go. I grabbed bread and apples on the way out and a jug of coffee. Want some now, or later?”

                        “Later. Good thinking.”

            We work well together, always did. When Dorie was eight, barefoot, and playing with a couple of pals, she ran a straight pin clean through the side of her big toe. I picked her up facing me and through her screams I told her to wrap her legs around me. Fred poured on de-natured alcohol and then pulled out the pin with needle nose pliers, no more than fifteen seconds from accident to cure. 

Fred chooses to go out under a small trysail, no main—only the bare pole of the mast and the little engine engaged at idle speed. The wind punches us on the port side as we head north.  I amaze myself with what I remember from years ago. It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been on a boat. He’ll keep the engine idling in case we need power for steering, but that little diesel would be worthless if we had to go into the wind.

            When it comes to boat handling, I trust Fred. Kimberly Anne is a well-founded boat. Fred saw to that when he built her. At times he can be insensitive and quite foolish, but when it comes to building the man is an artist and a perfectionist.

            As Fred pushes the tiller to round the sand spit, we can’t see anything but rain and spindrift blowing off nearby wave crests. Steering by compass, he sets Kimberly Anne’s course toward the two crossed lines on the chart—two hundred and ninety-eight degrees. Down below in the snug galley, I pour coffee from the thermos into two mugs both loaded with cream and sugar. The bread, in reality, is a bag of hamburger buns. Two steps up the ladder I call out.

                        “Here’s coffee, want a bun?”

                        “Want buns? Don’t you mean, got buns?”

                        “Got buns?”

                        “Not for some time.”

We laugh together, loud until he yells.

                        “Take the helm”

The radio squawks below. Fred vaults down the companionway as I reflexively grab the tiller. With the squelch button, he clears the noise.

“Anybody. Anybody. Can you hear me? Oh, God, please answer. Can you hear me? Help. God, help us.”

Dorie. Her voice sounds like a child.

                        “Dorie, this is Dad, over.”

                        “Dad? Is that you Daddy?”

                        “It’s me, baby girl. It’s me.

                        “Oh, Daddy, I can’t believe it.”

                        “You’re going to be okay. You’re going to be okay.”

                        “Oh, Daddy, help us.”

                        “Mom and I are on the way. Dorie, Where is Joshy?”

“Joshy’s right here with me. He’s okay. There are five of us in the lifeboat, two women and a couple of kids.

                        “Good. Where’s the ferry?”

“It’s gone. We were the first ones in a lifeboat. Then the ship lurched and dumped our boat in the water. The ferry disappeared into the storm. I don’t see anything but waves and rain. Oh Daddy!””

“Hang in there. We’re on the way. Stay calm. Dorie? Come in Dorie. This is the Kimberly Anne come in Victoria Express lifeboat. Do you read me.”

His head pops out of the hatch.

                        “You hear?”

                        “Yeah. Keep trying to get them.”

                        “You okay at the helm”

                        “Got it.”

Fred disappears below. I tuck the tiller under my right arm and hold tight with both hands against the force the waves and wind. Even with only a small triangle of sail, the Kimberly Anne heels down hard. I hear Fred yelling below, my heart sinks. Then I hear singing.

            “What’s up?”

More singing.

                        “Fred! What’s going on?”

Again, the bearded face from the hatch.

“Sorry, I got them again. They’re singing. Radar’s back on. I see them, not more than fifteen, twenty minutes.

He clamors out the companionway and weaves toward me, jolting down next to me as we slam into wave.

                        “Here.”

He takes the wooden tiller and hands me the portable radio.

“Dorie, this is Mom, Dorie? Can you hear me?”

                        “Mommy, yeah, I can hear you. Are you coming?”

                        “Yes. We’ll be there in just a few minutes. Are you okay?”

                        “Just soaked and scared, but, yeah, okay.

                        “And Joshy?”

“Joshy’s fine, Mom, just fine. He’s singing, “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Everyone joins him on the chorus.”

“Honey . . .”

“What Mom? Wait. I think I see the top of Kimberly Anne’s mast

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